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Il-76 vs Il-96 for Awacs? why cargo transports instead of an airliner?

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    Another possible reason is that. Since 1969 The Soviet Councils of Defense Ministry Commission already asked derivative of Il-76 (named Il-70 Before) To be AEW and OKB illyushin simply go ahead with that request without considering any other possible platform.

    Tu-154 was considered as AEW BUT there are difficulties associated with integration of equipment and aerodynamics.


      I don't know why the Tu-154 keeps popping up when its the Il-86 and 96 in question (although the 62 could be possible).

      I imagine the Tupolev's three engine lay out would not take well to the addition of an awacs covering its intake area.


        Perhaps the simple question is, what is Soviet/Russian airliner with the space and capacity of IL-76 that are more reliable or have population in service..?
        Il-62. Depending on the weight & volume of the radar & electronics, perhaps the Tu-154 - but note the already mentioned problem of engine location.

        There was a difference between the USSR & the west, in that the USSR built far fewer airliners relative to the numbers of military aircraft. There were far more Il-76 than Il-62, so the commonality argument that favours airliners in the west for AAR, AEW, etc. didn't apply as much in the USSR.

        Nowadays, one can build a high-end AEW aircraft on a small airliner or a big business jet, e.g. the 737-based Wedgetail/other names, & now the Israeli AEW on a G550 & the Globaleye (Erieye ER on Global 6000), but that wasn't true a few decades ago. One of the reasons for the failure of the Nimrod AEW was that too much was being squeezed into the airframe, although it was as big as a 737. The kit was too heavy, bulky & power-hungry back then.
        Juris praecepta sunt haec: honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere.


          I don't know why the Tu-154 keeps popping up when its the Il-86 and 96 in question (although the 62 could be possible).

          I imagine the Tupolev's three engine lay out would not take well to the addition of an awacs covering its intake area.
          Chinese and Israeli electronic supposed to be lighter as they came two decades later. Chinese use Tu-154M for military mission. so they have good idea about using civil airline with military electronics. why they not chose IL-86/IL-96 for AWACS.

          wide but not too wide.


            small nose and too narrow/long profile. wing not designed to take the pods.


              The decision to use Il-76 (A-50) as an AWACS( Airborne Warning and Control System) platform has been already mentioned in this thread very well in several post above, still I will just remember those and add some others that should be important to observe in my humble opinion, once the replacement of the Tu-126 had been developed from airliner Tu-114 by A-50 were developed from military transport Il-76, indeed it were such radical change, so some points that favorable the Il-76:

              The capabilities of the A-50( Il-76) to operate on air bases in remote parts of the former Soviet Union , since on these remote air bases the runways could have been covered by snow or sand, or even with the presence of foreign material that would be swallowed by the engines like the Il-86, in reason of the height in relation to the ground of those engines. In any case those air bases should have been considered little 'civilized' to receive airliners aircraft like:Il-62M, Tu-154 and Il-86;

              Another important aspect were the standardization of the A-50 with the Il-76, since all air bases that has been received the Il-76 could support the operation of the A-50, since both technicians and spare parts (Il-76) should be available, while the introduction of another aircraft (Il-62M, Tu-154 and Il-86) as an AWACS platform would have been required the training of technicians and the need for stockpiles of spare parts for these types, as well as improvements maintenance and cleaning services of the runways.

              Despite those aspect that favorable the choice of the military transport Il-76, still it should be considered others that could favorable the airliners aircraft's( Il-62M, Tu-154 and Il-86) like those:

              I guess that Il-86 were considered as an AWACS version too, since AFAIK the Il-86 could remain in flight for longer than the Il-76, then the Il-86 has been capable to accomplish ferry range of 8,300Km( 5,158mi)while Il -76MD would have been keeping 6,700km(4,164mi) among the sources that I could remember, still there are several sources with different numbers for both aircraft's;

              Apparently another important advantage the Il-86 over the Il-76 as platform AWACS should be the considerably smaller noise level of the Il-86( Il-62M and Tu-154) over the Il-76. As with the Il-80 (Il-86 military version), the noise level has been an important factor to consider also for an AWACS platform, since even with the use of datalink between the A-50 and the fighters.Still it has been necessary using voice command, and in the presence of high noise level both concentration required in the planning of actions and the transmission and reception of information by voice can be considerably impaired by the noise, since in prolonged exposure to intense noise it has been creating stress and fatigue for crew members;

              Possibly one of the reasons for A-50 crew members that has been operating the radar system to wear helmets with suits has been observed in several videos should be the need to insulate from internal noise, in addition for the possibility of abandoning the aircraft with the use of a parachutes.

              Otherwise another important factor in about the choices of the Il-76 over other platforms (Il-62M. Tu-154 and Il-86) should be the less need for changes in the design of the Il-76 for the A-50.

              The AWACS aircraft such as: E-2, E-3 and A-50 has been considered high complex platforms. The installation of a large antenna such as the rotor-dome has been require a considerable increase of the structural effort in those aircraft's, both by the static weight and the effort has been resulting from the aerodynamic drag of those in flight.

              In general, any platform has been transformed into AWACS will require several important changes in relation for the previous cargo or passenger version of those platform.

              Due to the installation of all electric and electronic components, as well as antenna and even the rotation systems for antenna, all these systems has been requiring such powerful cooling system, and most of these will be installed inside the aircraft.

              The Il-76 had been designed to carry heavy loads, as well as its wide cargo compartment that could have required fewer changes to accommodate all those systems from A-50. Even the Iraq with little experience in the aeronautical sector in the 80s had been chosing the Il-76 to develop its own AWACS version, with the use of French radars.

              An interesting feature of the A-50 is its interior when it has been compared with the E-3 Sentry, while the interior of the E-3 should be considered clean and functional as 'NASA standard', the interior of the A-50 has show such careless or improvised appearance in its ergonomics, once the operators of the A-50 has keep consoles next for shelves and instruments compartments.

              This apparent improvisation inside the A-50 has been intended to increase the access to the instruments for maintenance, as the wide compartment from A-50 could provides better access for maintenance or replacement of components. In other aircraft (Il-62M, Tu-154 and Il-86) a large part of these instruments would have been located in the cargo compartment, while these has been limited useful space when compared to Il-76.

              The AWACS aircraft has been keeping as universal characteristics such demand for high degree of maintenance requirements due to the complexity of its systems, as a result the choice of a platform that facilitates the maintenance working will contributes significantly to availability of the aircraft AWACS in time of peace or conflict .

              The former Soviet Union had been developed two others smaller AWACS than the A-50, though it did not go into production with the end of the Soviet Union: An-71 and Yak-44.

              The An-71 had been developed from the STOL transport An-72, which would equip the VVS (Soviet Union Air Force) frontal aviation, while the Yak-44 would be destined for AV-MF (Soviet Navy) to operate on aircraft carriers. The A-50s were operated by the PVO (Soviet Union Air Defense).

              Anyway, even the An-71 also reflects several aspects of the A-50 in its design, so the choosing of the Il-476 as the A-100's platform follows the same doctrine that in the past had made the choice of Il-76 for the A- 50.


                thanks for the well thought reply mauggie

                now it is often mentioned that the Il-76 was chosen due to its ruggedness and ability to take off from Humpty Dumpty airfields

                but how often has the A-50 taken off from such airfields? it seems to be they are stationed and operating from good bases.
                the IAF I think, operates it only from Agra, which is pretty clean and normal


                  It was well noted by Y-20, however every air force has been keeping its own doctrine, just as AWACS has been extremely important and complex aircraft, often in peacetime these has been operating from few primary air bases, since it has complete infrastructure to support peacetime operations.

                  Due to political changes, these AWACS aircraft such as the A-50 could be in full readiness, so it can be moved to alternative air bases, or near the routes where AWACS should remain on patrol.

                  In both cases, those secondary or alternative bases could have been purposed to prevent an initial attack capable to destroy these important aircraft's, as well as moving these to other bases should increased the number of AWACS missions due to the proximity of the patrol routes, yet it is possible to carry out refueling in flight, otherwise both the aircraft and the crew need to return the bases for maintenance and crew rotation.

                  In the case of the A-50 that uses the Il-76 platform, the fact that other bases has been operating the Il-76 would facilitates the A-50 operations. In cases of alert or even conflict it could be necessary only to move spare parts, tools and technicians that are unique to the A-50. In the same way there is no need for changes in runways or even in the air base to operate with the A-50 with safety.

                  In the documentary below there is a brief description of the Tu-126 and A-50 AWACS as well as its differences, then it started near from 40 minutes of the video almost in its end.


                    Tu-154 was a deathtrap. Tu-214 shows promise if they can find enough airframes.
                    Go Huskers!